Friday, May 22, 2009

There's only ONE Original

Not the best version available but the best without embedding disabled.

So far.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Media Relations Making Lemonade ...

And that's how a shiny new narrative is born.

As Americans grow accustomed during the recession to spending more time at home and living in the same places longer, home-improvement companies are regaining momentum.

See the rest here.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

When Catholics Attack!

There’s a big stink up in South Bend over whether the University of Notre Dame should or shouldn’t have invited the President of the United States (!) to address its graduating class of 2009.

Really, what institution of higher learning wouldn’t love to have a commencement speaker who, aside from being a constitutional scholar, the holder of a juris doctor from Yale, also happens to be a guy with a two-thirds public approval rating in the U.S. (it’s actually higher in many places) provide the keynote to the highlight of its academic year?

Apparently, a bunch of people.

Let’s leave aside for the moment the image of Randall Terry appointing himself spokesman for Notre Dame alumni.

Or Catholicism.

Or any religion based on compassion.

Let’s also leave aside the whole presbyterian (small p) authority over institutions in their dioceses.

Finally, whether or not you think President Obama or Bishop D'Arcy is right on their respective interpretations of the United States Constitution, we’re left with a single question:

What went wrong?

It doesn’t seem that anybody – the president, the bishop, the university – wanted this controversy. The president was reaching out to new audiences and the university was seeking the prestige of just about the best “get” of the commencement season.

So who screwed up and where?

The smart money is on Father John Jenkins. He’s the president of the University of Notre Dame and a heck of a lot smarter than me. Maybe even than you. But here’s where he made the mistake:

Fr. Jenkins is a leader.

One of the cardinal rules of leadership is that those whom you seek to lead must at least understand your decisions. If you get too far out in front of the parade, you’re just a guy with a baton.

Another guy smarter than me, who happens to be an alumnus of Notre Dame, told me that the university sees itself as America’s “elite Catholic university.” He said that the real question is whether they put the emphasis on “elite” or “Catholic.”

Not sure that’s the last word. A university must accept, even invite divergent points of view. That’s what universities do.

It’s an oxymoron to call an institution elite if it turns away the elite.

It’s incongruent to call an institution Catholic – or Christian – if it’s not compassionate.

It’s nonsensical to call an institution a university if it can’t tolerate dissent.

There are more constructive ways to bring prestige to an institution without alienating significant audiences. The good father could have created a forum for discussion of the borders between morality and legality. He could have invited the president to address the faculty or to speak to a collection of legal scholars.

Where Fr. Jenkins missed a step is in awarding a specific honor to an individual that some part – probably a minority but a very vocal one – of his constituency simply cannot abide.

Monday, May 11, 2009

And I Shall Smite Them with My Social Media Hammer of Justice

The second great narrative about PR is the shiny tool. In the last two decades there has been an endless supply of new tactics and applications that have changed the profession forEVAH.


Many of them have to a degree: at least in the sense that where practitioners spend most of their time – at least as a team – has changed dramatically. For example, PR pros very rarely walk into a newsroom and sit next to a journo’s desk to pitch a story anymore. When was the last time you ran 400 copies of a news release? Or licked a stamp?

Yeah, it’s like that.

Today the shiny new (NEW!1!) tool is something called … wait for it … social media. Social media will bring on the golden age of public relations. Or, social media will destroy and/or replace public relations as a business discipline.

Or something.

Todd Defren touched on a little bit of this several weeks ago. What Todd misses is that many organizations will accept the “PR is soo over” narrative and shoot themselves in the foot. While he and I have to let good people go write crappy blogs like this one.

See? Nobody wins.

We can’t worry too much about what propeller-heads think about what we do. Historically the people who create technology either vastly overestimate or underestimate its impact.

Short version: They have no idea.

The point here, is that if the value you deliver to your clients or your employer can be changed radically by a new a technology …

wait …

If YOU have changed radically the way you support or advise your clients or your employer because of changes in technology, be afraid.

Be very afraid.

Fear change because you are using a distribution model. Channels of distribution for information always have evolved. Right now, we’re picking up the pace. If you or your agency sees public relations as a tactical exercise, you’re … well … screwed.

You’re focused on HOW.

Public relations is about WHAT.

The other Ws (who, when, where, why) remain. This is where you live because it’s the basis of your relationship with all the audiences that influence your mission.

Because I get angry emails I’m compelled to point out that I’m one of the organizers of something called Cincy Social Media. I don’t hate the technology, I embrace it. But while technology changes, the basics do not.

These are simple truths:

People trust people more than they trust organizations.

People are social animals: they like to be with a crowd of folks that seem to be like them whether for support or affirmation.

Sharing is fun: Everybody likes to feel smart, whether they’re teaching the neighbor kid how to grip a slider or telling a co-worker about the hot new club.

Face-to-face interaction trumps any electronic interaction. That’s why in the face of iPhones and MySpace we still have MeetUps and TweetUps.

There are plenty more, but they come down to this: Real life matters.

But what matters most in real life is your message. And your message had better be based on What. You. Do.

Public Relations is absolutely not (just) about Telling Your Story. Neither is it remotely related to how many people follow your Tweets. Or fan your FaceBook page.

Image Cred: ripped from Ross Training who actually offers cool ideas on how to work out on the cheap. No kidding.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Hey, boy, where you been?

This is the question one of my older colleagues asked me a couple of weeks ago. After showing him how the RSS machine worked, I think I implied a more consistent level of activity here.

Hoping to fix that shortly.

In the meantime, Cincinnati Social Media really has taken off, both as a movement (love that word … so vague …) and as an organization. I make a point to avoid blogging about teh social media, at least to the extent possible. On one level, it’s a bit like blogging about the fax machine or, as Pete Blackshaw would tell us, the phone.

Even so, it being the shiny new tool and all, I find myself talking about it all day – internally and externally – and that leaves less time for thoughts about the whole dominant narrative thing.

Still, I have enough material in the analog notebook to fill another year or so. The only challenge is finding those moments to organize and upload them.

You have been warned.

Anyway, for the dozens or so of you remaining, my apologies and stay tuned. Especially tomorrow morning, when I finish that thang I started a month or so ago.

Image Cred